RAZORED ZEN

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Writing Group Presentation: Part One

Well, I had my second presentation on "The Care and Feeding of Writing Groups" last night and had two folks show up. Not a big audience but we had good conversation and I did end up selling one book so you could say I sold to fifty percent of the audience. That doesn't sound bad. Since not a lot of folks heard my presentation, I thought I might run it as a series here on the blog. It was quite a lot of work to just give to four people.  Below is part 1:

Part 1: Introduction.

Good _____ (insert time when you are reading this). Welcome. Thanks for coming.

Our topic here is on writing groups, but first let me introduce myself.

My name is Charles Gramlich, and I’ll confess that I’m a writer. That’s like  confessing I’m weird. But I bet I’m not the only one here. (I see you all out there in the blogosphere.)

I live in Abita Springs, Louisiana but teach at Xavier University in New Orleans. When I mention my other life as a college teacher, most assume English Professor. Nope. I’m in psychology. When I tell people I’m a psychologist, most assume I’m clinical. No again. I’m a biological psychologist, which means I study the brain.

I’m here (not really) with other members of my current writing group: Louisiana Inklings. We were founded May 22, 2008, by Alfred Olinde.

Other members include: Al Burstein, Sandra Loucks, D’Wanna Haynes, Sara Dickey, Laurie Walsdorf, Elizabeth Barilleaux, Isabella MacDonald Smith, and Mike Malloy.

Years before I became interested in psychology, I thought about being a writer. It came out of my love of reading. It started with me wanting to tell stories to myself like the ones I got so much pleasure out of.

I wrote my first book at 18. A western. It was awful and will never see the light of day. But I learned a lot from it. At 24, I wrote my second book, which eventually was published. After much rewriting.

I also wrote some short stories in grad school but became serious about trying to get published in 1988, after 2 years at Xavier. My first stories sold in 1989 and I date my writing life from there. So, I’ve been doing it a long time now.

In my first few years I had no writing group. Didn’t even know such things existed. I joined a small one at Xavier in 1993 and have been in one type of group or another ever since. Having a group is important to me. Maybe it could be for you. So let’s talk about writing groups. 
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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Grades Done, Etc

Finished my grading and will turn them in today. So now I'll return to blogging. There were so many old posts piled up that I'd never get through them so I'll just pick up commenting again starting today.

This post will be a hodgepodge. First, a quick report on my talk at the library on "The Care and Feeding of Writing Groups." It didn't turn out terribly well. Lana was there, and four members of my writing group, another ex member of the group and her mother, and then "two" people who actually signed up for the presentation. Only one of those was there at the beginning, although she did buy three books after the talk.

I also thought I could have been smoother in my talk, particularly at the beginning. I was a bit discombobulated at the low turnout and it took me a moment to figure out how to basically present an hour presentation to one person. I'll have another chance to do better on Tuesday, when I give the same presentation at another branch of the library.

Second, Wicked Words Quarterly, Issue 3, has just been released. It contains a story by me called "Long Dead Woman in a Black Dress." I've got my contributor's copy but haven't had a chance to read it yet, although the stories sound intriguing.

Third, almost two weeks ago Lana and I spotted a small fire burning in the woods down the road from our house. While Lana called the fire department, I started putting it out. It was burning slowly through the leaf litter so I was able to get the primary flames snuffed. The fire truck arrived and started spraying things down. We left. Later, we drove back by and it was still smoking but we didn't think much about it. But the next day I saw that flames had sprung up again. The fire folks had plowed an area around the fire so it was unlikely to get out, but I was afraid it would catch the trees and then be able to leap the gap. Once again we put it out and then I later poured water on all the smoking places. Unfortunately, the fire seemed to have gotten down into some half buried logs and it continued to smolder and occasionally flare up again for nearly ten days, even though we had one light shower and several heavy dews. A couple more time I poured water on the hot spots, and finally noticed yesterday that it appears to have completely died away finally.  Rather scary how long such a fire can keep smouldering.

Fourth, Adventures of an Arkansawyer is getting some good comments, although only one review has appeared on Amazon so far. I have a few copies here if anyone wants a signed one. I"m asking $9 for the book, same as Amazon, and I'm not sure how much the mailing costs would be but probably not much. Email me if you'd like a signed copy. kainja at hotmail dot com

Hope all has been well with everyone while I've been gone.

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Saturday, December 06, 2014

A Moment Away

My son is coming up today to see us and we're going to hit the Ren Fair. Tomorrow I've got to get a test graded that I gave yesterday, and Monday starts final exams. Lots more grading.

In addition, on Wednesday I'm giving a presentation on "The Care and Feeding of Writing Groups" at the local library. I'll be doing two presentations. I've copied the announcement below, though I know pretty much none of you are in this area.

For these reasons, I'm taking a few days off blogging and probably won't be back until Friday of this coming week. Hang tough!

ST. TAMMANY PARISH –Have you dreamed of belonging to a creative writer’s group? You can receive advice from experienced writers during two programs from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, December 10 at the Causeway Branch library, 3457 Hwy. 190 and from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, December 16 at the Slidell Branch, 555 Robert Blvd.

Charles Gramlich and other members of the Northshore Inklings Writing Group will speak about the types of writing groups, how to form one, and how to maintain it. They will also discuss their experiences self-publishing an anthology of member’s works called “Louisiana Inklings: A Literary Sampler.”
Audience members can purchase“Louisiana Inklings”as well as Charles Gramlich’s book “Write With Fire.”The authors will be available to autograph the books.


The event is free and open to the public, and registration is recommended. Light refreshments will be available. Seating space is limited to adults. Please register online at http://register.stpl.us/evanced/lib/eventcalendar.asp or call the library at(985) . Registration opens two weeks before the date of the event.
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Saturday, November 29, 2014

War Dream, with Extras

I dreamed I was with an army. We were fighting in Asia, either Mongolia or China it seemed. Mostly we were fighting the Chinese who seemed to be wearing WWII era clothing. Our weapons seemed like that era as well. I had a Tommy Gun. We finished a fight with some soldiers and then advanced into this valley where lay our objective, a village.

Before we saw the village, though, we saw the villagers coming toward us. They were mostly children with a scattering of women and old men. I was just a soldier but we had translators with us and through them the officers ordered the villagers to stop. They didn’t, but came on with these blank faces that seemed totally devoid of will.

Again and again they were ordered to stop but kept coming. Then the order came for us soldiers to open fire. We did. I shot a young boy in the leg to take him down but he seemed hardly to notice it and kept coming. I shot him again, higher, in the shoulder. The bullet seemed only to tug at him. No blood ran from the round black hole and he kept coming.

I was scared now. I opened fire for real. Bullets punched holes across the boy’s chest and even through his face—round, perfect, black holes, without any blood. They didn’t stop him. The other soldiers were having no better luck. I saw some of the bodies of the villagers almost torn to shreds by bullets and through those torn gaps I saw the reason for the villagers advance. From the back of each protruded a tentacle that was pushing them, controlling them.

The villagers, what was left of them, were within feet of us now. Then the tentacles shed their torn camouflage and whipped forward into our line, wrapping around various soldiers. One tentacle caught me up, jerked me up in the air. It dragged me spinning through the air and then released me. I fell, and landed with many other soldiers in a great long trench. We didn’t land on dirt though. We landed on a massive, quivering bulk of slick, pink flesh.

I woke up.


Chtulhu lives! In my dreams!
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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Typewriter Versus Word Processor

I had a thought last night. I have a lot of them. Most aren’t worth much. I’m not sure this new thought is either. I’m sure it’s not original. Maybe everyone has had it. But I haven’t seen it written down.

It begins with something Lana told me. She was contrasting her strategy for taking photos back in the ‘film’ days with the digital world of today. She said that with film, because of the cost and inconvenience, she tended to take few pictures and spend much more time framing each to try and make them good. With digital she doesn’t do much of this. She takes ‘lots’ of pictures, downloads them to her computer, and then weeds out the good from the worthless. Digital pictures are cheap to take and don’t need “development” time.

It occurred to me that something similar has happened with writing as we moved from the typewriter era into the computer/word processing era. I’m old enough to have written on a typewriter. I wrote college essays and papers on an electric. I wrote some stories and poems, and even a novel that will never see the light of day. I used my first word processor in graduate school and that is when my writing really took off.

Writing with word processing software makes it easy to generate lots and lots of words, then go through and weed out those that don’t work. I spent much more time thinking about the words I was going to use back when I wrote on a typewriter because I didn’t want to go through the arduous process of correcting and rewriting. I also typed slower and more carefully to avoid errors that would have to be corrected.

These days, I slather words down and do a lot of my thinking on the screen. I try out all different ways of saying things. I often end up saving several drafts of stories, those that are close to finished, or those that have variant endings. I like having these and sometimes go back later and think I chose the wrong ending for one I sent out. I also continue to rewrite stories even long after they're done. I save the published version as is, but I may still revise words, sentences, paragraphs and endings. 

Computer word processing software has allowed me to do this, and without it I’m sure I’d have no writing career at all. I also know, though, that the ease of writing on a computer can be a trap. A lot of the words that go down easily aren’t the right words in the right combinations. There’s still a lot of work to be done weeding out the good from the bad. In that process is where the art lies. 
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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Naivety: Part Two

Even after the egg incident, my innocence knew no bounds. Paul David told me one day that he could pin a glass of water to a concrete wall. Thinking to myself that I was not naive enough to believe that one, I told him to show me. He just smiled and filled a glass with cold water from the tap and then showed me the big pin he’d borrowed from Mom’s sewing kit.

We went outside to the pump house, which was the only concrete structure on the farm. Paul David positioned the glass next to the concrete and pressed the pin against the wall beneath it. I was watching closely when the pin slipped from his fingers.

“Oh, can you get that for me?” my brother asked sweetly.

Of course, I could. I quickly bent down to pluck up the pin, at which point Paul David poured the glass of cold water over my head. I came up spluttering to see him convulsed in laughter. I wish I’d stuck him with the pin, but I was too naïve to think of it.

I’m not that naïve anymore. 
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